Conversion Figure Dilemma

This particular topic has been discussed and hashed over many times but unfortunately for me it again has reared its ugly head. I was contacted by a relatively new person to ventriloquism and this time it is not a child but an adult. He wanted to know if a conversion figure was a professional figure.

Wow what do I say. The answer is a two edge blade. A professional figure is a figure that a performer uses and makes money. In that case the figure as well as performer is a pro. No questioning that. If it is making money it is professional.

Then he after getting this answer from me said,” But what about a Charlie McCarthy dummy that has now been made with a head stick and moving eyes and mouth?” and that is where my personal opinion came into play. I feel that if the figure starts life as a toy I really don’t care what is done to it, it is still a toy. This is what I told this gentleman.

I did let him know that there are some very talented builders that make some nice figures from toys but did not mention any names. This subject always bothers me but it is a part of our world of ventriloquism.

What are your thoughts?


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Ventriloquist Central is the brainchild of Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst. Dan is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Steve is a ventriloquist as well as builder of ventriloquist figures. He also has a background in sales, marketing, building websites and computers. Because they both love the art of ventriloquism, the website Ventriloquist Central was born. For more information about the website, go to:

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3 Responses to Conversion Figure Dilemma

  1. Lee Dean says:

    About a year ago I appeared at University of Kentucky Art Departmemt, which put on a show about dolls. One person that was supposed to appear took ill and other person who contacted me split her fee with me with the understanding I was to bring the wood dummy I made and give a short talk about ventriloquism. Her dolls displayed were all made of cheap plastic. I was an art major at Baylor and told her if it’s not wood it’s no good. Why, she asked. I get no inspiration from Mattel smell unlike aromatic red cedar was my answer. As for your question, Dan, light a match to plastic, watch burn, drip away, and convert itself back to oil. Beauty is only skin deep.

  2. Philip Grecian says:

    I have five pro figures these days…including my main figure, Louie, who is a Hartz…but my first Louie was a seriously converted Jerry Mahoney (the one with the head stick). I built him a new body and hands, and his face was redone with Celastic (back when there WAS Celastic) and he was rewigged and I replaced the rubber band inside the head with something more reliable. I made some pretty good money with him for over forty years.
    Senor Wences used his own hand…so did Jay Marshall. There are millions of plastic Charlies and Jerrys and W.C. Fieldses and Howdys, and if they remain unmodified, I figure they’re toys…but as soon as someone with a deep need to express him/herself through ventriloquism takes up one of them and rejiggers their outsides and maybe their insides to create something new and wonderful, that’s a pro figure. Maybe not as collectible as the larger, more expensive figures…but what would you pay for one of Jay Marshall’s store-bought used gloves?

  3. Tom Conner says:

    Well I think we all have are opinion on the subject. And therefore I’ll voice my thought on it. I agree with you on once a toy always a toy and conversion figures for the most part are made from toy figures they just have more fuctions added but still a toy. I believe the makers, builders what ever you want to call the folks that do conversion figures do it to make a quick and easy buck. And it seems to be working for them somewhat. I feel this way because there are the people that dont know any better and then the ones that do,however they may not want to spend a lot of money or just dont have the money to spend on a better figure. To just start out and see if they real like the art and are going to stick with it. And I agree that what ever type of figure or puppet used doesn’t matter if your making a living with it than its professional. A good example for those of us who seen Jeff Dunham demonstrate his little Jeff figure
    its obvious that its not the figure that really matters but the person behind it. To me he made that little toy figure come to life just as well as his main characters.

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